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Stationary waves and slowly moving features in the night upper clouds of Venus

Nature Astronomy volume 1, Article number: 0187 (2017) | Download Citation


At the cloud top level of Venus (65–70 km altitude) the atmosphere rotates 60 times faster than the underlying surface—a phenomenon known as superrotation1,2. Whereas on Venus’s dayside the cloud top motions are well determined3,4,5,6 and Venus general circulation models predict the mean zonal flow at the upper clouds to be similar on both the day and nightside2, the nightside circulation remains poorly studied except for the polar region7,8. Here, we report global measurements of the nightside circulation at the upper cloud level. We tracked individual features in thermal emission images at 3.8 and 5.0 μm obtained between 2006 and 2008 by the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer-Mapper onboard Venus Express and in 2015 by ground-based measurements with the Medium-Resolution 0.8–5.5 Micron Spectrograph and Imager at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Infrared Telescope Facility. The zonal motions range from −110 to −60 m s–1, which is consistent with those found for the dayside but with larger dispersion6. Slow motions (−50 to −20 m s–1) were also found and remain unexplained. In addition, abundant stationary wave patterns with zonal speeds from −10 to +10 m s–1 dominate the night upper clouds and concentrate over the regions of higher surface elevation.

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J.P. acknowledges the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s International Top Young Fellowship. R.H. and A.S.-L. were supported by the project AYA2015-65041-P from the European Union’s Fondo Europeo para el Desarrollo Regional, granted by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad, and Grupos Gobierno Vasco (IT-765-13). T.M.S. was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellows. The IRTF/SpeX observations were supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (KAKENHI 15K17767). T.K., T.M.S. and H.S. were visiting astronomers at the IRTF, which is operated by the University of Hawaii under contract NNH14CK55B with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and acknowledge M. S. Connelley (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii) for support in the observations. We also thank the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana and the Centre National d’Études Spatiales for supporting the VIRTIS–VEx experiment.

Author information


  1. Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, 252-5210 Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan.

    • J. Peralta
    • , Y. J. Lee
    • , T. M. Sato
    •  & T. Satoh
  2. Grupo de Ciencias Planetarias, Departamento de Física Aplicada I, E.T.S. Ingeniería, Universidad del País Vasco, 48013 Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain.

    • R. Hueso
    •  & A. Sánchez-Lavega
  3. Zentrum für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Technische Universität Berlin, D-10623 Berlin, Germany.

    • A. García Muñoz
  4. Artificial Intelligence Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, 135-0064 Tokyo, Japan.

    • T. Kouyama
  5. Faculty of Science, Kyoto Sangyo University, 603-8555 Kyoto, Japan.

    • H. Sagawa
  6. Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, 00133 Rome, Italy.

    • G. Piccioni
  7. Abteilung Planetenforschung, Rheinisches Institut für Umweltforschung, Universität zu Köln, 50923 Cologne, Germany.

    • S. Tellmann
  8. Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, 277-8561 Kashiwa, Chiba, Japan.

    • T. Imamura


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J.P. explored, selected and processed the data from the VIRTIS dataset, wrote the manuscript and produced Fig. 1,Fig. 2,Fig. 3,Fig. 4 and Supplementary Figs 1, 3 and 5. R.H. evaluated the signal-to-noise ratios of the VIRTIS images, confirmed the lack of correlation between the images of the upper clouds and those sensing deeper levels, performed the principal component analysis and produced Supplementary Figs. 4 and 5. A.S.-L. suggested the scheme for the manuscript, as well as some of the figures to be included, and chaired the discussion of the results. J.P., R.H. and A.S.-L. measured the cloud motions from VIRTIS and J.P. and T.K. measured those from SpeX. Y.J.L. and A.G.-M. coordinated, designed and carried out the sensitivity analyses at the wavelengths of interest. Y.J.L. studied the spectral features of the filaments and produced Supplementary Fig. 2. T.K., T.M.S. and H.S. obtained, reduced, corrected and navigated the SpeX images. S.T. measured the atmospheric stability and vertical wavelenghs in the VEx and VeRa radio-occultation data. All the authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Peralta.

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